Advanced Directives

Vic Greene, Highlands Cashiers Hospital

Woody Allen said, “I don’t mind dying.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”  That resonates with many of us. 

Dark humor aside, there comes a time when the subject of Advanced Directives must be addressed.  Two years ago, my 95-year-old mom and 93-year-old stepdad under Hospice care, had to face, discuss, sign, and post their ADs.  It was a scary process, but they realized its importance.  What convinced my mom to sign was finding out that by law, if a patient needs reviving on a 911 call, the EMS team must administer CPR if there is no directive otherwise.  Only 15 percent of elderly come through CPR unscathed.  Fragile breastbones are often crushed in the revival attempt.  That is one of many after-effects, which frequently lead to death.

But, as Chaplain Victor Greene of Carepartners says, “We don’t want to scare ourselves or loved ones into signing an AD.  We want to make educated decisions.  In the long run, it’s best to have an AD completed and set aside so that we can go on living while loving every day we have.” 

The first step is acknowledging the elephant in the room, dying.  Chaplains, counselors, and social workers are available to provide a listening ear and good information.  Knowledge equals comfort.  It’s the not-knowing that is frightening. 

Chaplain Greene suggests anyone over 55 or anyone, any age with a life-threatening illness fill out an AD.  He encourages asking questions, seeking counsel from a close friend or professional, and preparing the AD and living will after consulting your physician so that you, your family, and loved ones know your wishes.  Put in writing now your view on tube-feeding, hydration, antibiotics, etc., so that your family doesn’t suffer additional stress wondering what to do on your behalf.

Whatever you include in the directive, whether friends or family approve or not, you can rest assured your directions will be carried out to the letter and spirit of the law, morally and legally.  Be assured you can change the document anytime.

To find out more about Advance Directives and Living Wills, call your physician, acquire an AD form at Mission, and/or speak to Chaplain Greene of Carepartners, Hospice in Franklin. You can reach him at (828) 369-4417 or [email protected].

You are also invited to “An Evening with the Docs” panel discussion, July 19, 5:30 P.M. to 7:30 P.M. at Jane Woodruff Clinic, Suite 103, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital.